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A Personal Blog Today….

Oct 15

In Friends at 8:13am

No speed light stuff today. Apologies….

About a dozen years ago my wife Annie made a pretty courageous leap of life and changed everything, all at once. What does one do when you shuck off all that is familiar, and move to a new and strange set of walls, have no money and a couple of sticks of furniture?

Well, when you take a chance like that, and rescue yourself, sometimes, you reach out at the same time and rescue others. So Annie the animal lover packed herself off to the shelter, and thought she had decided to take home a little black ball of fur when, out of the same tiny fur ball, another head popped out. Brothers. She took ‘em both.

Formula One fan that she is, one became Nigel, after Nigel Mansell, and the other Arie, after Arie Luyendyk, both legendary drivers. The three of them made a home, and a life together.

And then I showed up on the doorstep, courting Annie. Trying desperately to impress, I did all the usual guy stuff. Calls, dinners, movies, walks and talks. Flowers. First time I sent roses, I called the local shop, and made the order, and when I gave the address, the smart guy who took the call said, “Oh yeah, yeah, I know that place. We’ve delivered out there before! Lots!”

I was left of course to, uh, clear my throat, and say something diplomatic, like, “Yes, well, of course. I’m sure the lady in question is not without her admirers.” I think the shop is called Wise Ass Florist.

In the midst of all my desperate attempts to be noticed by this lovely lady, I wasn’t completely aware that my activities were being measured and judged by another. A sage and protective guardian–Nigel.


See, Annie trusted Nigel’s instincts so thoroughly that if he didn’t like you, you were toast. She placed a lot of faith in Nigel’s ability to size up a guy’s intentions and character, and in fact, if Nigel squinted hard at you, and slunk upstairs, you might be in for some tough sledding.

Thankfully, Nigel and I had it going on right from the first, probably ‘cause we’re pretty similar. Couple of goofball lugs, very motivated by the phrase, “What’s for dinner?” He did look at me hard, though, at first. Looked at me, looked over at Annie, and then back at me. And then let me know the deal, in his way. It was like, okay pal, you have my permission, but if you ever don’t treat her right, it’s between you and me, understand? And it’s been our understanding ever since.

We’ve watched a lot of TV together-he likes NCIS. There’ve been mornings when he would help me out by walking over my keyboard and sending email. Other mornings when Annie’s on the road and I’m sacked out, tapping my forehead gently with his paw to remind me it was past breakfast. Keeping me company on one of his favorite perches–our flatbed scanner. (Drives folks in the office a bit nuts, having a scanner full of cat hair.)

He was pretty good with small flash, too. He really got into the Strobist series.


I’m struggling writing this, mostly with the sense of tense. I’m trying to describe this stuff in lighthearted fashion, as if it’s still going on. It’s not. It’s going to be hard thinking about Nigel in the past tense.

A little while back, seeing Nigel not be his usual, gregarious self, Annie took him to the vet. The diagnosis was Hemangiosarcoma, among the most aggressive and deadliest of cancers. He had been dealt a tough hand of cards. It mostly strikes dogs, rarely cats, which confirms my suspicion he was, indeed, part pooch. (How does that happen? How does a few bastard rogue cells completely snuff an ebullient little life force like Nigel in 3 short weeks?) He retreated into dark places, under beds and into cabinets. We did our best to make him feel comfortable. He knew what was up. The wisdom in those eyes of his spoke volumes, right to the last.

Now he’s gone. He’s in the ground, with a small marker. I put roses on his grave. I have to figure they were his favorite ‘cause whenever I gave them to Annie, he would try to eat them.

I’m writing this, knowing I can’t read it to him, the way I would occasionally read to him about the Yankees or the Knicks from the morning news feed. But I think we had a good last conversation. Told him I was sorry about trying to teach him to be a VAL. I thought that little speed light harness thing was gonna work:-) Of course, he quickly let me know he was more suited to the director’s chair than to grip work.

Thanks, bud. Thanks for watching over Annie. Thanks for letting me in the house. Thanks for occasionally letting me use my pillow.


Just, you know, thanks…..and Godspeed…I’ll see you on the other side. More tk….

337 Responses to “A Personal Blog Today….”

Pedro Moreno says:

on October 16, 2010 at 8:19 am

I am very sorry for you loss. Love your thoughts about Nigel.. He knew how much he meant for you and your family. He was love and he will be miss.

One day at the tiem.


Jill Flusemann says:

on October 16, 2010 at 8:21 am

Joe, Jill Flusemann here from Minneapolis. I had the pleasure of your company in New York and Venice (simply remember fondly the modified Wilma shot). I am SO SO sorry to hear about Nigel. Having lost my own BeBe a few years ago who was truly my baby in every sense of the word to kidney disease I know how hard it is. Wishing you, Annie and the family all my best. I have BeBe in a stone cat on my cupboard so she is with me. How lucky you were to have a Nigel. Take care,

Kathleen says:

on October 16, 2010 at 8:22 am

Joe and Annie, I’m so sorry to hear about Nigel. As a cat person myself I know how they become most-loved family members and how hard it to lose them. I always showed my two your posts about Nigel so they’ll misss him too. Hope Arie is OK.

Scott Robert Lim says:

on October 16, 2010 at 8:24 am

So sorry, I know a beloved pet is like a family member. Thank you for sharing- I know his spirit will live on and the little reminders of his life that use to be a nuisance- like his cat nips here and there- ruining your new this or that, are celebrations and sweet reminders of his blessed life. May you find peace and gratefulness and sorrow to comfort your soul.

Christy says:

on October 16, 2010 at 8:25 am

I have trained my dog Senna (named after Ayrton Senna) to shake her head “no” when asked “do you like cats?” Despite our apparent bias, I confess to tearing up when I read your post. So sorry for your loss and my best wishes.

Viveca says:

on October 16, 2010 at 8:29 am

A truly moving tribute, so beautifully written in that it is not at all maudlin, just a homage to an old friend who will always be there with you in your hearts…

Cindy says:

on October 16, 2010 at 8:31 am

Cats can really find their way into a special person’s heart. Our 9 yr. old maine coon was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma nearly two years ago. for some reason he has survived, but walks a thin line everyday. My husband now calls him the spoiled child. You and Annie had the privilege of caring for a cat…that is something special. God Bless.

Terry Riley says:

on October 16, 2010 at 8:33 am

Sorry for your loss. We lost our 10 year old black lab last week to Mast cell cancer. He was a big part of the family. Thanks for all the motivation and enthusiasm that you bring.

sandy says:

on October 16, 2010 at 8:36 am

I feel your loss, we just lost our Maltese after a wonderful and long 17 years with us. I’m sorry seems inadequate, but I am and thanks for sharing… and the morning tears

Rusty Bryant says:

on October 16, 2010 at 8:52 am

I know how you feel Joe. I’ve lost my both my little boston terrier Emma and my yellow tabby cat Eggo. How is it that an animal can get that close to our hearts?

Tyler Vance says:

on October 16, 2010 at 8:52 am

Well said.


Robert Trahan says:

on October 16, 2010 at 9:06 am

My condolences on the loss of your beloved Nigel; may he chase light and mice in heaven.

Gerry Johnson says:

on October 16, 2010 at 9:07 am

Thank you for sharing. Nigel must be proud of how well he trained you (as mine have me).
God bless.

Jim Digby says:

on October 16, 2010 at 9:12 am

Oh my God it hurts. Our hearts are with you and Annie.

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….
Author unknown…

Debbie W says:

on October 16, 2010 at 9:16 am

I’m so sorry for your loss. Your post was a wonderful tribute to Nigel. I think once you have lost a beloved pet, you experience a little of the pain others are going through when you hear of their loss. My thoughts are with you both.

Matt Brandon says:

on October 16, 2010 at 9:18 am

Joe and Annie, I too am sorry to hear about Nigel. Just two weeks back while I was leading a workshop I learned that my cat had died while I was away. We don’t know why and will never know. I have always been a dog guy till we moved to Malaysia. My daughter wanted a pet and with so many Muslim friends we felt a cat was a better choice. I begrudgingly gave in. Jessie rescued Shadow from the some woods next to a local wet-market. The vet said the kitten only had day or two left had Jess not brought it home. Shadow became my lap buddy and like a dog would put his head on my lap and insist I pet him. All that to say, I feel your loss. Blessing.

Karen Squires says:

on October 16, 2010 at 9:23 am

I’m so sorry Joe. I understand how you feel.
Go rescue another kitty. I’m sure Nigel would approve.



Eric says:

on October 16, 2010 at 9:24 am

Joe & Annie, I am sorry for the loss of your good friend, Nigel. My wife & I recently went through almost the same quick unexpected loss of our dear friend. It is hard. Eventually it gets easier to where you mostly just remember the good times and they make you smile and laugh (plus shed a tear or two.)

Mary Ellen says:

on October 16, 2010 at 9:27 am

We lost our Golden of 13 years to the same cancer. One and a half years later it still hurts, but I can’t imagine missing out on all the joy she gave us. Thank you for sharing ~ even if it made me cry.

Eric Laberge says:

on October 16, 2010 at 9:29 am

I truly feel for you Joe, as many here who have commented so far. It is difficult to lose a loving pet, and their absence hits you more than you realize. I know where you are coming from as I have experienced the same thing as well. They still hold a place in your heart long after they have gone, even 15 years later in my case.

knh771 says:

on October 16, 2010 at 9:34 am

I’m very sorry for your loss. I’ve always felt cats choose us, rather than the other way around. Furry guardian angels of sorts. Prayers for peace and comfort…

Richard Davis says:

on October 16, 2010 at 9:43 am


I share your pain! Many years ago, when I was 11 or 12 we pickup up a kitten from I don’t remember where. We called her Matilda for a few days till we discovered she was a boy and changed the name to Mathew, Matty for short.

Matty grew up with me, through my parent’s break up and divorce, moving house, etc. He saw me off to college and welcomed me back whenever I came home. When I took to working I would go off overseas for 10 week tours before returning home. Matty would sleep on my mother’s bed when I was gone but my mother started to notice him moving back to my bed one or two days before my return.

What was more curious was, as my schedules became less regular and my returns less frequent, Matty would still somehow be able to predict my impending return. Mostly I couldn’t call ahead to announce my return but Matty would know.

And then, one day, many years later when he was 15 or 16 he went to my room, curled up on the bed and refused to take any food. My mother took him to the vet and they decided the best course of action was to put him down. I came home two days later. I was incredibly sad.

Matty used to spend the summer days snoozing under the rhubarb leaves so we cremated him and hurried him under the rhubarb. And every year the rhubarb comes back strong as ever – like his eternal gift to us.

Bob Stares says:

on October 16, 2010 at 9:50 am

Hi Joe…I live alone, well that is without another human. I have 2 cats. Little Boy and Little Boy Too. I recently had a scare with Little Boy that brought into perspective how much that little animal meant to my happiness and how sad I had become at the thought of losing him. Think about the comfort and fun he brought into your life and do what we all do when we lose something we love…remember to smile when you think of him.

Jerry says:

on October 16, 2010 at 10:07 am

Mine was an orande Tabby. We did chemo, etc. It was more for us than him. My condolences.

John Tebbetts says:

on October 16, 2010 at 10:09 am

Joe and Annie- I am so very sorry to learn of your losing Nigel. Joe, thank you for sharing your and Annie’s love for Nigel with all of us. For me, I’m just glad that I don’t have to account to anyone down here or a higher power as to whether the loss of one of the dog members of my family versus some folks I know is more painful. If only we could be as good as some of our pets. Many the memories temper the pain.

Leon says:

on October 16, 2010 at 10:10 am

A wonderful tribute! Sorry for the loss of a good friend…

Atiyeh says:

on October 16, 2010 at 10:15 am

the first time i heard about Nigel was when I was watching one of your clips and he came in and u were distracted and you said, oh here is nigel.. come in nigel… and he came looked around but left! I just knew he is one speical cat..

sorry for your loss.. beautiful post for his memory.

God bless.

Veronica C. Burgess says:

on October 16, 2010 at 10:19 am

I appreciate you sharing such a personal event in your lifes. Having lost a pet recently, this brought up some serious emotion. I am so sorry for your loss.

Veronica C. Burgess

Jay Abramson says:

on October 16, 2010 at 10:19 am

Sincere condolensces to you and Annie. I know well how you feel. Remeber him fondly and often. gotta stop now – can’t type when I can’t see the keys…

Tammy says:

on October 16, 2010 at 10:46 am

So sorry to hear about that, Joe. So sad…but a beautiful tribute. He will be up there with Beautiful Joe (if you know that book) all good as new and teaching the others how to be VAL’s!

Mo says:

on October 16, 2010 at 11:18 am

Sorry to hear about Nigel. I had cats before and lost them. I was impressed to hear that your wife is an F1 fan and her cat was named after Mansell. You should get her a new cat and call him Ayrton)) she won’t be disappointed

Jason says:

on October 16, 2010 at 11:21 am

:( A very sad day for you and the family. Thank you for sharing such a great homage.

Rob Byron says:

on October 16, 2010 at 11:42 am

Hi Joe,

My most sincere condolences on the loss of your beloved Nigel. Our pets are our babies and their loss is just the same as if it was a person. I fully and absolutely understand your feelings.

A great blog post today, one that would make Nigel proud… or at least purr a little. Thanks for sharing your heart with us. Take care and may God bless you and Annie.


Terry Wheeler says:

on October 16, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Never thought I would get teary eyed reading your blog!
Cats and Dogs truly are part of the family! I have felt this same pain you are feeling, so I know it hurts!
Thank God for people like you and Annie that love and respect pets!


kkjensen says:

on October 16, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Joe & Annie,

My deepest condolences for your loss. Nigel’s left big shoes to fill.

God bless…


Vic Peek says:

on October 16, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Sorry for your loss. My best buddy Elmo ( 15 year old Cocker ) died in my arms (cancer) 5 years ago. Still think about him and still miss him. I still feel the void when I get home – he was there to greet me every time. Dogs and cats love you for regardless. Time will reduce the pain but the good memories will be there forever.

Ilkka says:

on October 16, 2010 at 12:14 pm

My condolences. In that first picture he looks like an older version of our youngest. All one can do is to be thankful of the time one gets, I suppose.

Stephane Hachey says:

on October 16, 2010 at 12:18 pm

May he rest in peace. Sorry for you loss.

Glenn Riegel says:

on October 16, 2010 at 12:28 pm

I always enjoy your blog posts and share your insights and adventures with my high school students (I teach photography at a vocational school). This note hits home on so many fronts and drills a hole into that special spot that anyone that has ever loved a four legged being and lost them to age or disease will know exists forever in their soul.

It’s been ten years, and yet, when I read your need to share, the emotion wells up as if it were yesterday. Loved ones never leave us…we simply mourn the loss of their physical connection.

-Blessings to you both and to all that celebrate special relationships.


Alex Ödman says:

on October 16, 2010 at 12:30 pm

I’m sorry for your loss.

I know how it feels. When I was round seven years we got a cat. Since then and 18 years to come we was brother-in-arms. He was my brother and we understood each other like no one else.

Here are two pictures of him. http://www.alexfotograf.se/2010/aslan

Take care Joe. You are big source of inspiration.

/ Alex

Jeff Lawrence says:

on October 16, 2010 at 12:36 pm

My deepest of condolences. Animals are my favorite people.
I have not posted before, but this post definately deserves a comment. A pet can easily become a close family member and I can’t imagine how I will feel one day when I will eventually loose my own. Always remember Nigel and the good times. I am confident that Nigel was as fond of you as you were of Nigel and take comfort in knowing that Nigel knew how deeply you and the family cared for him.

God Bless from one of you photographer fans.

Kerry says:

on October 16, 2010 at 12:38 pm


We’re sorry to hear about your loss. People that don’t have an affinity for pets as part of the familiy won’t understand. We’re dog folks more than cat people, but we completely understand your feelings towards Nigel.
Over the years, we’ve lost a number of pet family members some of which had been with us 15+ years. Know this. Nigel’s body may be in the ground, but his spirit lives on. He knew he was loved and a respected part of your family.


Ryan says:

on October 16, 2010 at 12:41 pm

My condolences to you and Annie. As a cat lover myself, your story brought tears to my eyes. Ever since I’ve started following your blog I could tell Nigel meant a lot to you, and I’m sure he will be greatly missed.

James Falsken says:

on October 16, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I feel for you Joe and extend my condolences. I have to say do not wait to bring another new face into your family’s life. It is the best way to mend your heart. I know because just 2 weeks ago someone poisoned my service dog and my losing her nearly cost me my own life. She was just 3 1/2 years old when someone tossed a tainted hunk of meat into our yard. I cried for days after her passing and I started to look for a new dog to train to become a service dog like my dog Lizard was.

I bought home a dog from my local shelter and we are hitting it off pretty well. We started the 2 year long process for training her. The tears have dryed up now, but I will forever carry my best friend around with me. I am sure you would have wanted me to keep going.

The thing is the shelters are full and need good loving homes to place these forgotten animals. My local shelter gets 1500 dogs a day and only has kennels for 300. I do not want to know what happens to the unlucky ones that never get a chance to the rare kennel space. In looking for my new dog Kaelee. I visited the shelter on four separate days and there never was a single empty kennel. Even after taking kaelee home I know her kennel wouldn’t be empty for very long. I say before you give away or toss old toys go find a new loved one. It will help to ease the pain of losing a dear friend.

My Service dog Lizard could even call 911 for me and that is something my ex-wife would never do! I wish you all the best!

Jackee Swinson says:

on October 16, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Joe, So sorry for your loss. Our pets become close and very special to us. Think of him as being in a better place and being happy. You will be with him again someday. Until that day arrives please keep him alive with all the memories.
I love your blogs. My heart goes out to you and your family.

Tiffany Meyer says:

on October 16, 2010 at 1:49 pm

This is your most revealing and information rich post yet, Joe. I am so sorry for your loss…though I know Nigel will reappear in your lives as another creature. Bless you both for caring and nurturing some “throw away shelter animals” and letting them realize both your potentials together.

Gary Martin says:

on October 16, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Annie+ Joe..So sorry to hear of your loss..I have watched the video’s on youtube where Nigel was in the background and read your books where you mentioned Nigel numerous times..He was obviously a huge part of your life and of your memories of the years gone by..I hope that you guys can be happy in the future without him.. He was a lovely kitty…Obviously had huge character..I hope he went peacefully and May he rest in peace…
Big hugs from Dublin Ireland! Keep up the great work..

Gisele Pernell says:

on October 16, 2010 at 2:26 pm

My friend David Hufford sent your blog to me. I am so sorry for the loss of you and your wifes cat Nigel. Animal people are a special breed and the loss of a pet at times hurts more than the loss of a human friend. I guess it goes with the unconditional love a pet provides and their wisdom of which people you can trust. There is a site RainbowBridge.com with a lovely poem that will ease your heavy heart and give you hope that you will meet up again. I lost my beloved Maggie May, a 5 lb bundle of love on Aug 6 this year and I have the poem framed with her picture by my front door. It does help ease the pain of losing her after 12 years of endless puppy kisses and long conversations and secret sharings. I also have 2 rescued cats and a Pomeranian named Kissy that still looks for Maggie in the house.
God bless you all for providing them a home with love and the courage to admit that you are an animal lover and not afraid to let people know it.

Penny says:

on October 16, 2010 at 2:39 pm

I know some people tell you animals have no souls. I think these people are sadly mistaken. Or maybe they’ve never had that animal best friend that has touched them. Most of us out here have had an pet and felt the extreme loss at their passing. I have had quite a few myself. At the time the pain is something you can’t talk about, or deal with. It’s a pain that makes you wonder if having pets is worth the pain of loosing them. They seem to be here and gone so fast it’s not fair. All we can know as “owners”, which we are not, is that we gave them the best life possible while they were here. I know that each pet I’ve had knows without a doubt that I loved it to pieces. And I know they loved me. They are family, to me anyways. You loose a part of yourself when they pass. And I sure hope if there is an afterlife that all my little buddies are awaiting my arrival. Cause if they’re not, well, I just don’t see the possibility of eternal joy and happiness. As I type my dog Jesse is out basking in the fall sunshine, enjoying every moment, something we tend to forget to do. So Joe, know that he knew you as a best friend and will always be your little rose eater :-)

Tom O'Connor says:

on October 16, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Joe, what a great story.
So many similarities in our lives.
I grew up in New York and went high school in the Bronx.
Wonder how many pictures of yours I saw in the Daily News riding the D-Train to 164th street.

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